Skin and Hair
This site is provided for informational
purposes only. The information here is not intended to diagnose
or treat any condition, and should not replace the care and attention
of qualified medical personnel. Use the information on these pages
at your own risk, and, as with any information pertaining to health,
nutrition, mental health, or fitness, consult your physician before making any
changes that might affect your overall health.
High Altitude, Baking and Cooking
cook a little differently at high altitude. Some changes are
subtle, and you might not connect them with altitude right
away, others are pretty obvious!
Most high altitude
cooking and baking instructions do not recommend compensations
until you reach about 6000 ft above sea level. Living in the
region of Wyoming that I live in, we are right in the altitude
range in which you really begin to notice small differences,
so I have learned to compensate when baking and cooking.
Water boils at
a lower temperature here - this is due to reduced air pressure.
You won't really notice much of a difference at 4000 ft, and
even at 6000 ft, the only real difference is that noodles
take the tiniest bit longer to cook, and brown rice tries
your patience a bit more than normal (taking closer to an
hour to cook instead of the usual 40 minutes). Candies also
can require a longer boiling period to reach the various ball
or crack stages.
The most noticeable
differences at this height is baking. Cakes tend to be a bit
softer, and more likely to fall in the middle. Breads do some
interesting things too.
Cake mixes will
usually indicate that you should add an extra tablespoon of
flour to the mix if you are at altitudes over 5-6000 ft. You
may need to compensate even more if you are higher up than
Since cakes, muffins,
quickbreads, and pancakes use baking powder, which is activated
by heat, they tend to rise rather rapidly in the center. Reduced
air pressure means that the bubbles grow faster and larger
than usual. This can cause them to get large enough to burst
before the center of an item fully cooks. It does not affect
taste, so unless you are serving for company, it is not usually
a big deal. Adding flour stiffens the batter a bit, and gives
the same effect as increased air pressure - it makes it a
little harder for the bubbles to grow.
If you are baking
from scratch, you can also reduce the amount of liquid by
about a tablespoon, or you can reduce the amount of baking
powder (or soda and acid combination). Only reduce the baking
powder by about a quarter though, a small difference will
usually correct things.
I bought my first
bread machine at high altitude. I have always baked bread,
but did not notice any differences until I got the bread machine
though, because I always baked by feel and appearance, not
by specific times. Each time we moved we had to work out new
bake times for the new oven anyway.
In the bread machine
though, the differences were really noticeable. It is not
fun cleaning out vents on the top of a bread machine into
which soft uncooked dough has squished because the bread over-rose!
Bread will tend
to rise too fast. Whole wheat bread can also sour very quickly
at higher altitudes. Solutions to the two problems are slightly
different, depending on how you bake bread.
If you are using
a bread machine, the solution is one of two things:
1. Decrease the
yeast by about a quarter teaspoon at a time. Test it and see
when it is right.
2. Decrease the
water by 1-2 tablespoons. Our recipe called for 1 cup and
1 tablespoon of water. We just put in 1 cup and it worked
is the same as what it is with baking powder baked goods.
Make it a tiny bit harder for the bubbles to expand.
With whole wheat
bread, if the dough sours, it will rise rapidly, then fall,
and the second time it will never seem to rise as well. If
it over-rises, it will fall during baking. Since whole wheat
bread has to have a fairly soft dough to result in an edible
bread, decreasing water is not an option. You can decrease
the yeast some, but it still needs at least half a tablespoon
per loaf in general.
Your main solution
is timing. We let the dough rise once in the bowl, and punch
it down right away. This can take as little as 15 minutes
in the summer. Then we shape the dough - do not let it rise
again before you shape it! Put it in the pans and watch it.
Whole wheat dough
will generally not raise as high as white, so you want it
to just round up to the top of the pans, and have a nice,
if small, shape to it. Put it into the oven, and handle it
carefully. Bumping it too hard can cause it to fall. It will
take you a few tries to learn just how high you can let it
rise and still have a nicely shaped loaf.
Catching it at
just the right point gives you the best shape, and the best
flavor. Your bread will taste fine and full flavored without
baking can take a bit of experimentation, and a little testing,
but for the most part, you'll be just as able to turn out
good baked goods up in the mountains as anyone can on the
Editorial Comments throughout this site written by Laura Wheeler (with occasional sarcastic remarks by her son, David). Laura is a 10 year resident of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, where the altitude is greater than the population. Medicine Bow is at 6200+ ft above sea level, and boasts a total of 297 residents from the last census. Laura is an experienced technical, health and family writer.